I tried, Zesties, I did. I went to a nearby filling station, purchased me an extra-large decaf, and while sipping it from the comfort of my car, I did my level best to prove a writing truism–that if you will have the eyes to see, you can find writing inspiration most anywhere.
I was certainly motivated. Each week I’ve walked through the streets of this blog, where it’s been so quiet that I freaked myself out when my foot inadvertently struck a tin can. I’ve stared at the boarded windows, at the brick walls where graffiti and Virginia creeper vie for dominance. I’ve ached for human contact, almost rang a few door bells in hopes of hearing more than the chimes echoing back at me.
What’s prevented me from actually posting? The search for a topic which was not all me-me-me. Hence my efforts at the filling station, which generated not one, not two, but three blog post ideas:
- Men in overalls–sexy fashion statement or redneck irritant?
- Car roof racks–the merits thereof
- Demise of the public payphone as told in interpretive dance
Yeah. In my defense, I was drinking decaf coffee and likely sniffing subliminal gas fumes.
Given the lousy ideas and the persisting, unfulfilled yearning, it seems I have no choice but to go the authentic route. That means we’re talking sandwich generations today, and I don’t mean the turkey-on-rye variety, but the caregiver-caught-between-two-generations type.
Since my last post, the three elders in my immediate family have experienced a few challenges, chief among them, two hip fractures. As a result, we’ve had conversations and made practical arrangements concerning things like meal preparation, safe residency, and end-of-life decisions, like whether to resuscitate.
These issues can be emotionally challenging in and of themselves, but if you’ve been through this, you might understand the complexities involved when dealing with a large extended family. Especially if you’re a person who aims to build consensus. Especially if various parties are dealing with grief, the stages of denial and anger being the hardest to work with. Especially if the elders in question have provided zero or limited eldercare to their own parents, making their expectations a tad unrealistic because they are uninformed by personal experience.
To add to this, we are still launching the two O’Hara offspring–a circumstance which adds degrees of irony and difficulty to the situation.
For example, when it comes to driving adults, my default position can’t be For God’s sake, take the car and go. Nope. All of a sudden, I have to think about whether to encourage behaviors traditionally associates with adult independence, like banking, or driving. Worse, I have to think about whether it’s my responsibility to alter them or have them cease altogether.
Needless to say, as a person who does best with stability and order, my wig has been routinely askew these past months. Just when I think we’ve achieved a new-normal–I might be writing an intriguing and informative blog post on scissors, say–things shift again. I’m no longer feeling creative or lighthearted but become obsessed with questions such as these:
- Where do you draw the line between helping versus enabling?
- What are my responsibilities to society? To the affected individual? To my spouse? To self?
- How long do you let people struggle before you decide they’re not building resiliency and meaning in a new stage of life, but are suffering unnecessary despair?
Now, I hope this isn’t coming across as (completely) self-indulgent complaining. I’d like to emphasize that while we’ve been challenged through the process, by virtue of life circumstances–largely unearned–we are part of an extended family blessed with abundant resources. Though we might quarrel about the practicalities, we have a uniform desire to do right by our parents. We’ve done a decent job to date and see the journey as one of great privilege and meaning.
That said, it is a time- and energy-consuming process, which is why I want to say two things to you.
First, if you’ve been through this thorny thicket and come out the other side, maintaining grace and dignity for all affected family members, my hat is off to you. Seriously. You’ve done important work. It might be unpaid and often unrecognized, but work it remains.
Secondly, while you’re going through this, if you’ve maintained good self-care and work productivity, I am in awe. Seriously, what do you consume for breakfast and where can I get me that?
Now over to you, Zesties. If you’ve been involved in eldercare or simply witnessed a family which handles it brilliantly, what tips can you share?
PS: I don’t want to forget to draw your attention to three Writer Unboxed articles I have yet to mention on this blog:
- An interview with a writing friend who is often called Tom Clancy’s successor: Navy Commander Rick Campbell Makes Waves by Penning Military Thrillers.
- Probably my most personal blog post yet, for reasons alluded to within the title: Confessions of a Serial Non-finisher.
- Lastly, this explores environmental tweaks you can make for greater health and productivity. Lean Writer, Fat Word Count? Engineering Your Environment for Default Success.